The Bangladeshi government on Monday approved 'transgender' as an official third gender, which will lead to the recognition of the rights of around 10,000 individuals who had previously been marginalised. In India, transgender individuals have to identify as male or female in order to vote or marry.
The decision was taken at the weekly cabinet meeting headed by prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
Transgenders - known variously as eunuchs or hijras - were given voting rights in Bangladesh in December 2009. According to a survey by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh has a transgender population of around 10,000. Others put the figure higher, at somewhere between 30,000 and 150,000.
"Since the 1990s, organisations working to promote the rights of hijras – together with kothi and MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) – in Bangladesh, such as the Bandhu Social Welfare Society and Badhan Hijra Sangha have highlighted their significant social and economic exclusion, often linked to high levels of violence, familial rejection, police harassment, inadequate access to health and education, and – for many – reliance on sex work," says dayagainsthomophobia.org.
“The eunuch will now be identified as gender beside male and female. They will mention their gender as eunuch in passport and other identity cards,” Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, an official spokesman said after the meeting according to reports.